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Emergency debate granted on Brexit Bill's Holyrood impact

The SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford has demanded MPs discuss the 'power grab'.

By STV News

Published 14 Jun 2018.

The speaker of the House of Commons has granted an emergency debate next week on the impact of the EU Withdrawal Bill on Scottish devolution.

The SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford called for it after the controversial legislation was passed on Tuesday with less than 20 minutes dedicated to debating the amendment affecting Scotland.

Scottish ministers have long considered the Bill a "power grab" against the devolved administrations.

MSPs from the SNP, Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens united last month to formally deny it legislative consent, by 93 votes to 30, with only the Tories voting against.

The Bill's contentious clause 15 will see some powers held by the EU not immediately passed to Holyrood despite coming under devolved policy areas.

Under the Sewel convention, the UK Parliament does not normally legislate on matters which the Scottish Parliament is responsible for without gaining their consent.

Tuesday's Commons vote marks the first time since devolution began that a Bill has been passed at Westminster against Holyrood's formal wishes.

MPs supported Blackford's application on Thursday to hold an emergency debate on the validity of the Sewel convention.

Speaker John Bercow said the debate will take place on June 18 and last for up to three hours.

Blackford and other SNP MPs have also called for the Scottish secretary David Mundell to resign amid claims he has "totally shafted" Scotland.

He said Mundell had "downgraded devolution" and ignored the Scottish Parliament by supporting the Withdrawal Bill.

"Will the secretary of state now apologise to the people of Scotland for his series of broken promises?" Blackford asked.

"The secretary of state has failed to protect devolution, failed to protect the Scottish Parliament, failed to protect Scottish interests.

"Having plunged Scotland into constitutional crisis, will he finally do the right thing if he has any dignity, if he has any self-respect, and resign and do it now?"

The SNP's Commons leader Pete Wishart echoed the sentiment, saying the Scottish secretary had "presided over this crisis with an ineptness rarely demonstrated".

He added: "For goodness sake man, just go."

They were joined by Labour's shadow Scottish secretary Paul Sweeney, who accused Mundell of "sawing away at the legs that support the union".

Sweeney added: "We proposed amendments that would have ensured that the Scottish Parliament had to give its consent unless the matter related to international obligations, which the secretary of state will know is entirely in line with the Scotland Act.

"Yet rather than allow us to debate that amendment, the secretary of state allowed Scotland's voice to be shut out of the debate.

"The secretary of state promised that he would fix the mess that his government created - yet he has done absolutely nothing.

"He is Scotland's invisible man in the cabinet."

Mundell brushed aside the calls to quit and said the Sewel convention is not absolute, especially given the unprecedented nature of Brexit.

He told MPs: "I think anyone would accept the UK leaving the EU are not normal circumstances."

The minister earlier said "significant" changes to the Bill had been made to protect the powers of the devolved governments, which the Welsh Government signed up to despite initial opposition.

Mundell added: "After yesterday I am not taking any lessons from (Blackford) on dignity."

The SNP's Westminster leader was returning to Parliament after being suspended the previous day by Bercow in a row over the Withdrawal Bill amendments.

Blackford called for the Commons to sit in private when he was called to ask a question during Prime Minister's Questions.

Bercow said it would be better to deal with the issue at the end of the question session but the MP repeatedly objected and refused to return to his seat.

The rest of the SNP's MPs followed Blackford out of the chamber in protest during the stormy scenes.

During First Minister's Questions on Thursday, Nicola Sturgeon praised her party's MPs for drawing attention to the Withdrawal Bill and its impact on devolution.

She revealed the SNP has gained more than 5000 new members since the Westminster walkout.

Sturgeon added: "People are angry, people are talking about it, people are expressing that anger in different ways."